Early Gas Turbine History

1791 First patent for a gas turbine (John Barber, United Kingdom)

1904 Unsuccessful gas turbine project by Franz Stolze in Berlin (first axial compressor)

1906 GT by Armengaud Lemale in France (centrifugal compressor, no useful power)

1910 First GT featuring intermittent combustion (Holzwarth, 150 kW, constant volume combustion)

1923 First exhaust-gas turbocharger to increase the power of diesel engines

1939 World’s first gas turbine for power generation (Brown Boveri Company), Neuchâtel, Switzerland
(velox burner, aerodynamics by Stodola)


The man behind the early steam and gas turbine

Stodola report card

Prof. Aurel Stodola (1859-1942)

Final Grade report at ETH Zurich: GPA = 6 (A+)
 [courtesy ETH Zurich]

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Seminal work by Stodola

English Translation of “Die Dampfturbinen” 1906
One-dimensional treatment – Velocity Triangles

English Translation of
“Die Dampfturbinen” 1906

 One-dimensional treatment –
Velocity Triangles

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World’s first industrial gas turbine – 1939

news clipping from Eddie Taylor's collection

From the paper collection of Eddie Taylor, the first director of MIT GTL (1947–1969)

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Stodola at 80
first gas turbine

Commissioning of world’s first industrial gas turbine, Neuchatel, 1939 (Stodola at age 80)
[picture courtesy ETH Zurich]

 Drawing of first gas turbine
[from Eddie Taylor’s paper collection]

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World’s first industrial gas turbine “Neuchatel”, 2007

ASME Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in Birr, Switzerland (ALSTOM Headquarters)
GT Neuchatel operated for 63 years (generator failure in 2002) [picture courtesy of ASME]

Neuchatel, 2007

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No future for aircraft gas turbine engines...

National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Gas Turbines (June 1940):

In its present state … the gas turbine engine could hardly be considered a feasible application to airplanes mainly because of the difficulty in complying with stringent weight requirements imposed by aeronautics.”


But two people insisted and asked the right questions…

Whittle and Ohain

Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain

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First turbojet-powered aircraft – Ohain’s engine on He 178

Heinkel He 178

The world’s first aircraft to fly purely on turbojet power, the Heinkel He 178.
Its first true flight was on 27 August, 1939.

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First Patent by Whittle for Turbojet Engine in 1930

Whittle W-1 engine
Rolls-Royce Trent engine

Whittle W-1 (1941)

 Rolls-Royce Trent


“Whittle … stressed the great simplicity of his engine. Hives [Director of Rolls Royce]  commented, ‘We’ll soon design the bloody simplicity out of it.’ ” [From Genesis of the Jet]